Difference between Rice Vinegar and White Vinegar

There are many different forms of vinegar, and vinegar itself has a large number of possible uses, from culinary applications to cleaning solutions. Two common types of vinegar are rice vinegar and white vinegar. What are the differences between them? This article will help explain.


Vinegar, in all cases, is a sour liquid made of mainly acetic acid and water. The acetic acid is produced by the fermentation of grain or fruit.

Rice vinegar
Black rice vinegar

Rice vinegar is made from fermented rice. Rice vinegar is sometimes called rice wine vinegar, but what separates rice vinegar from rice wine is the fermentation and distillation process. Rice wine is rice that has been fermented and distilled into alcohol. Rice vinegar takes the process a step further, adding bacteria so that the alcohol becomes an acid. Rice wine is an inherent part of the process of making rice vinegar, but rice vinegar and rice wine are not the same thing. Rice vinegar is produced throughout much of Asia, and can be found in Japan, China, Vietnam, and Korea. It is the more common form of vinegar found in Asia. Varieties of rice vinegar include black rice vinegar, pictured above, red rice vinegar, and white rice vinegar.

White vinegar
White vinegar

White vinegar, or distilled vinegar, is made from the fermentation of distilled ethyl alcohol. The ingredients used for this alcohol are typically malt or corn. White vinegar is the most common vinegar found in North America and Europe. It is clear in color, acidic, and sharply sour in taste. Outside of culinary applications, white vinegar is used as a cleaning solution, as well as in pickling and preserving.

Comparison chart

Rice Vinegar White Vinegar
Sweeter and milder in flavor, lower acid content. More acidic and sour in flavor.
Often a darker or more opaque color like brown or red, or if a light color, is pale yellow. Clear, colorless, transparent.
Made from rice/rice wine. Made from malt/corn/ethyl alcohol.
More common in Asia. More common in North America and Europe.
Less preferred as a cleaning solution. More preferred as a cleaning solution.

Rice Vinegar vs White Vinegar

What are the differences between rice vinegar and white/distilled vinegar? The main differences are:

  • Flavor of the vinegar
  • Color of the vinegar
  • What the vinegar is originally made from
  • Commonness of the vinegar
  • Applications and uses for the vinegar

Rice vinegar has a sweeter and milder flavor, whereas white vinegar is very acidic and sour. Even white rice vinegar, the most sour and acidic of the rice vinegar variations, is comparatively less sour than white or distilled vinegar.

Additionally, rice vinegar is usually darker than white vinegar. Rice vinegar can be black, dark brown, red, or pale yellow. Additionally, rice vinegar can be opaque or translucent. White vinegar, on the other hand, is clear, colorless, and transparent.

Rice vinegar, as the name would suggest, is made with rice. Rice is fermented and distilled to create rice wine, and the fermentation/distillation process is taken further to create rice vinegar. White vinegar is not made with rice, but usually with malt or corn. Similarly to how rice vinegar is made from the alcoholic rice wine, white vinegar is made from distilled ethyl alcohol.

White vinegar is more common in North America and Europe, whereas rice vinegar is more common in Asia.

Rice vinegar can be used for cleaning, but white vinegar is preferred due to its higher acidic content and lower sugar content. Rice vinegar has a tendency to leave a residue that white vinegar does not. Both vinegars are used for culinary purposes, but rice vinegar is used more when a sweeter flavor profile is needed. Rice vinegar can be served as a dip in some cases.